FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks Ice Dogs must have listened to their coach.
After winning their North American Hockey League opener 3-2 in dramatic fashion Thursday night in Topeka, Kansas, in what coach Trevor Stewart said he felt was less than a stellar effort, the Ice Dogs put it all together Friday night in rolling to a 7-1 victory over the host Topeka Roadrunners.
“We competed harder, won more puck battles and made the most of our opportunities,” Stewart said in a telephone interview from the Kansas ExpoCentre in Topeka.
The Ice Dogs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and were never threatened. After Topeka scored late in the first period, Fairbanks buried four more goals, including three in the second, to secure the rout.
The Ice Dogs outshot the home team 42-21, including 37-15 in the first two periods.
“Collectively, we just had a better effort all the way around,” Stewart said. “We defended better and transitioned the puck faster so we didn’t have to play as much defense.”
Six different Ice Dogs found the back of the net and 12 players had points in the victory, while goaltender CJ Boothes stopped 20 of the 21 shots that came his way.
“The back end was stout tonight and CJ saw the puck and made the saves he needed to make,” Stewart said.
Robert Blueger scored two goals in the first period and was one of seven Ice Dogs to pick up two points on the night. Cayden Cahill, Daniel Haider, Hampus Eriksson, Colton Fletcher and Nolan Schaeffer accounted for the other Ice Dogs goals.
“We made the most of our opportunities and buried the puck when we had the chance,” Stewart said.
Ryan Kero and Erkka Vanska each had two assists, while Cahill, Haider, Eriksson, Fletcher, Dean Hewines, Nick Rogers, Benton Maass and Hunter Wendt each had one helper.
Cahill got the Ice Dogs on the scoreboard at 6:34 of the first period off assists from Haider and Hewines. Blueger scored what proved to be the game-winning goal less than three minutes later with help from Kero and Rogers. Blueger scored his second goal at 16:22 off an assist from Kero.
Marcus Russell picked up Topeka’s lone goal at 17:02 of the first, but the Ice Dogs countered with three more goals in the second and another in the third to put the game away.
Eriksson and Schaeffer scored a little more than a minute apart, starting at the 8 minute mark of the second, and Haider added a power-play goal at 19:18. Haider’s goal was the Ice Dogs lone tally in four power plays.
Topeka was 0 for 3 on the power play.
Fletcher completed the scoring for the Ice Dogs at 15:41 of the third period.
The two teams complete their season-opening, three-game series at 4:30 pm. (ADT) today in the Kansas ExpoCentre.
“I am sure they (the Roadrunners) are not pleased with tonight’s outcome and they will come back at us with a good challenge tomorrow night,” Stewart said.
After tonight’s game, the Ice Dogs head to Blaine, Minnesota, to play four games in four days in the North American Hockey League Showcase, starting Wednesday.
Fairbanks will play its first home series on Sept. 30 and Oct 1 against the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7586.